Umm Qais (aka Gadara (its Greek name)) is about a two-hour ride north of Amman (aka Philadelphia), unless you follow your GPS, in which case it will take you about 3 and half hours of frustrating, high blood pressure inducing, honk-your-horn-a-lot driving that takes you through small villages made up of dirt roads, numerous driving hazards and not one public toilet. It’s a good thing we had friends visiting from the States or else we may have turned around and opted to stay at home.
Umm Qais (Gadara) is perched atop hilly farmland (olive and fig trees) overlooking the Sea of Galilee, Syria and the Golan Heights. The expansive 180 degree views are breathtaking and compete with the beauty of the time-worn ruins.
In addition to the historical significance of the ruins, Gadara also has biblical significance– it’s said to be the site where Jesus performed the miracle of the Gadarene swine (Matthew 8:28-32).
Gadara was founded in 323 BC. During Gadara’s golden age (second-century AD), it was considered a city of great cultural vitality, a center of philosophy, poetry and the performing arts. By 325 AD, Muslims ruled the city, followed by a series of earthquakes that destroyed much of the city’s infrastructure. In the 1890s, a small village grew up amongst the Roman ruins until 1986 when its inhabitants were paid to leave the site to enable archaeological excavation.
After scrambling around the ruins for an hour, we worked up an appetite and ate lunch at the Resthouse–a restaurant on the grounds offering great views, good food and exceptionally clean (attendant free with TP) restrooms.
We drove home without the assistance of our GPS and arrived home in just over two hours.